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The Immigration Court Process

In early 2024, an investigative report published by the Associated Press estimated that immigration courts across the United States are dealing with a backlog of three million cases. This unprecedented backlog, which is threatening to derail the American immigration system, is the result of a series of unworkable policies that have been pushing these special courts beyond the limits of what they can do.

Backlogs: Challenges Facing Immigration Courts

The Associated Press report featured the story of a Honduran couple who joined a migrant caravan and walked across Mexico to the border, where they were told to wait in a Mexican border camp until U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could gather sufficient resources to take their asylum applications. 

After a few weeks in a camp, the couple crossed illegally and walked to a Border Patrol outpost in Texas to be processed as undocumented migrants, a situation that involved being detained for weeks before receiving an immigration court summons. Eight months later, the couple attended a court hearing in Miami and requested an extension that would allow them to retain an immigration law firm and seek asylum.

The Evolution of Immigration Court Responsibilities

Most of the cases in the monumental backlog are like the one described above. They involve illegal crossings, often by migrants who spend time in border camps or detention centers. If we take away the asylum aspect of these cases, they’re essentially removal proceedings. This is particularly evident in areas near the Southern California border, which makes it critical for migrants to be represented by attorneys who specialize in immigration services in San Diego, CA.

This strained system is nothing like what U.S. lawmakers and officials envisioned when the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) was established in the mid-1980s. Immigration courts are civil courts, but their judges are often tasked with evaluating criminal backgrounds and determining if the respondents are admissible and can remain in the U.S.

Key Functions of Immigration Courts

In essence, the current work of American immigration courts includes:

  • Deportation proceedings – This is when USCIS, Border Patrol, or another federal agency argues an immigrant should be removed. The nature of complaints may encompass immigration law violations or other crimes. 
  • Relief from removal – When deportation orders feature orders for physical removal, immigrants can apply for various forms of relief, which may include asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under certain conventions and programs.
  • Bond hearings – When foreigners are detained by immigration agents, they can have hearings before immigration judges to determine if they can be released on bond while their cases proceed instead of having to wait at USCIS detention centers.

Outcomes & Statistics

In 2023, 53 percent of cases handled by immigration courts resulted in relief from removal. Of these, the majority were outright dismissals, meaning most immigrants were declared admissible and free to continue pursuing USCIS benefits without having to deal with deportation orders. Less than 10 percent of cases resulted in decisions granting asylum orders, and all such cases involved law firm representation.

During the early EOIR days, immigration judges also decided on appeals filed as a result of adverse USCIS adjudications, but such cases are now handled through the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is staffed by judges who can also review motions to reopen cases or reconsider immigration court decisions.

If you have questions about immigration services and how they may affect you and your family, contact trustworthy San Diego immigration lawyers. The attorneys at KS Visa Law have extensive experience with every facet of immigration law, and they’re the attorneys to call on when you need the most up-to-date information about immigration regulations and how to navigate the immigration court system. Call KS Visa Law today to schedule an appointment.

June 2024
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